Aetheric logo

With the Aetheric Message Machine functioning properly, we now address the steampunk aesthetic. Our model is electrical and scientific instrumentation of the late 19th century. Such equipment was typically constructed of brass, framed glass, and wood. Instrument bases were usually a dark hardwood. Panels and small working parts were brass. Delicate instruments were enclosed in brass-framed glass. Indicator lamps of the period were usually full-sized lamp bulbs.

We're avoiding the "non-functional gears" look sometimes associated with steampunk. Every part on our machinery has a function.

With these examples to guide us, we packaged the electronics which interface the Teletype machine to a computer (see Connecting) in a custom-built box with brass panels.

Front view

Control unit, front view

A simple panel - a meter (Teletype loop current), an on/off switch (a circuit breaker) a button (which sends a BREAK), and two lamps (Power and Motor).

The panel is 0.070" brass plate.

Note the Teletype machine at the right.


Rear view

The rear panel

The steampunk esthetic runs up against reality here. From left to right, the USB port, the jacks which connect the Teletype, a fuse, the power cord, the outlet for the Teletype's motor, and a convenience outlet, which also provides ground fault protection for the whole system.

We later used a black USB cable and power cord, improving the aesthetics. We also added engraved brass tags for the connectors.

Top view


The interior of the box is entirely modern, and is thus concealed. Shown are a power supply for Teletype loop current, a solid state relay to control the Teletype motor, and the box containing the electronics described under Connecting.

Both lamps are lit here, as the message machine was typing when this picture was taken. These are 7 1/2 watt bulbs, so they're not too much for a front panel, while following the indicator style of the period.

Fully asssembled electronics box

In operation

With a stained and polished wooden top and base, the unit is complete.

That's our electronics box in its finished form. In response to complaints on the Brass Goggles forum, we have since replaced the Phillips-head screws with simple slotted screws.

Next was a case for the Teletype machine itself.

Lower part of case

Case construction

The lower part of the case, painted. The case is bent aluminum sheet, with a CNC machined .070" brass front panel.

Fasteners are brass, of course.


Message machine overview

Assembled and operating

The Aetheric Message Machine and its companion Control Unit.

The mechanism is displayed in a brass-framed case which shows off the many moving parts.

Overview of Teletype

First public demo

Public demo at TechShop, where we do our sheet metal and CNC work.

Selector close up

Selector mechanism

This is the selector mechanism of the machine, the unit which converts serial data into typebar selection. We wanted to display this complex section of the machine, and designed the case with the angled cutout shown. That cutout also allows the transparent section to swing forward on a hinge, allowing access to the ribbon and paper.

The light framing is brass "came", used in stained glass work.

Right side view

Exposing the works

Rather than enclosing the entire device, we only enclosed the hazardous portions that had moving parts or were electrically live. We left the platen and paper roll uncovered. The perforated metal section in back protects the motor fan and a fuse block. It's also designed to subtly guide the paper off the back of the machine.

Teletype front closeup

Brass front

The front above the keyboard is machined brass.

The base is formed from sheet steel; it will be painted black. The base supports the machine on shock mounts. The case touches the machine only at two large rubber bumpers. This prevents annoying rattle.



The blank brass front plate clearly needed a nameplate. So we engraved one, using a small Techno CNC mill.

Printer close-up

Typing unit

The user needs to view the words being typed. Lighting is a problem. We've found a desk lamp at the left of the machine, aimed at the platen, to be a good solution.

Right rear view

Rear view

From this viewpoint, it's a working business machine.

In steampunk environments, we would conceal the little subnotebook computer at the right (an EeePC 2G Surf) which uses a WiFi connection to handle SMS and RSS feeds.

The machine at the Steampunk Exhibition

As deployed

The machine at the Nova Albion Steampunk Exhibition. Lit by a classic banker's lamp, and busily printing messages for visitors to the convention, the machine was fully functional.


December 31, 2015